| Q&A Jen­nifer Keesmaat’s plan to oust John Tory

May­oral con­tender Jen­nifer Keesmaat is dead set on oust­ing John Tory. But her time as chief plan­ner ended with her leav­ing city hall in frus­tra­tion. So why go back?

Toronto Life - - News - by mal­colm john­ston This in­ter­view has been edited for length and clar­ity.

Af­ter you stepped down as chief plan­ner, you said Mayor Tory de­served an­other man­date. Now you’re call­ing him out and gun­ning for his seat. What changed? His tepid re­sponses to the hous­ing cri­sis, the rash of pedes­trian and cy­cling deaths, and the grow­ing con­cerns over pub­lic safety. Lead­ers see what’s com­ing and act, they don’t re­act. The tip­ping point was when Doug Ford moved to cut the size of coun­cil. The mayor didn’t say, “This is un­ac­cept­able. I won’t stand for it.”

He did ob­ject to it and backed a court chal­lenge, though. You tweeted that Toronto should se­cede from On­tario, then re­tracted it. That wasn’t a pol­icy pro­posal. It was a tweet be­fore I was a can­di­date and it was an ex­pres­sion of frus­tra­tion. I say a lot of stuff to be provoca­tive, be­cause de­bate is good. A strong mayor would’ve said to Ford, “Sorry, not ac­cept­able,” and ne­go­ti­ated a bet­ter out­come.

If be­ing mayor is your call­ing, why did you wait un­til the last minute to reg­is­ter? I wouldn’t say it’s a call­ing. I had to be con­vinced to take the chief plan­ner po­si­tion, and peo­ple worked very hard to con­vince me to do this, too. Like so many things in life, these things build.

Tory’s cam­paign has called you the NDP can­di­date. Is that fair? I rec­og­nize that John Tory is the failed leader of the PC party, and so for him it’s about par­ties. But it’s not for me. I’m not a mem­ber of a party.

You were chief plan­ner un­der Ford and Tory. Shouldn’t you share the blame for many of the things you’re now at­tack­ing Tory for? I’d say no. A mayor’s power is far greater than a chief plan­ner’s. Though I would say that I stretched that role to its limit. Let me ask you: who was my pre­de­ces­sor as plan­ner?

Ah, I know this. The gen­tle­man with the beard… No, you’re think­ing of Paul Bed­ford, Miller’s plan­ner. There were three be­tween us, but no one knows who they were.

Fair enough. If you were mayor, would you en­cour­age your plan­ner to be as vo­cal as you were, even if his or her views were op­po­site to yours? Yes, we need a strong chief plan­ner.

Strong is dif­fer­ent from vo­cal, though. Say you want bike lanes ev­ery­where, and your plan­ner tweets, “That’s a ter­ri­ble idea!” Would you be okay with that? Look, when I was plan­ner, I some­times made rec­om­men­da­tions that weren’t ap­proved by coun­cil, and, yes, as a pro­fes­sional, I dis­agreed—20 years of plan­ning pol­icy dis­agreed as well. Like re­build­ing a crum­bling ex­press­way when we don’t want more cars down­town. But once coun­cil voted, I was al­ways silent.

A hall­mark of Tory’s tran­sit file is the one-stop sub­way to Scar­bor­ough, but that was your pro­posal. You told him that a one-stop sub­way and an LRT could be done for the same cost—$3.56 bil­lion—as the three­stop sub­way. And it could! Then the TTC came out with new cost­ing that added $1 bil­lion to the to­tal.

So do you still stand by your es­ti­mates? No, be­cause they changed. But I still stand by the tran­sit plan I pro­posed.

Would you raise taxes? Work­ing fam­i­lies are strug­gling with af­ford­abil­ity, and I don’t think that strug­gle should get worse. My fis­cal plan stays within that frame­work.

Road tolls: good idea or bad? They’re an ef­fec­tive way to man­age con­ges­tion un­der the right cir­cum­stances.

You’d need the premier’s sign-off. You think he’d give it? I won’t spec­u­late.

Would you fire Chief Saun­ders? I won’t com­ment on that. What I’ll say is that we have an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity to work with the po­lice and grass­roots or­ga­ni­za­tions in new ways to re­duce crime. Polic­ing is im­por­tant, but it’s just one tool. There are oth­ers we need to em­brace.

What does Toronto look like af­ter a Jen­nifer Keesmaat may­oralty? It be­comes more of its best parts. It’s a city with sig­nif­i­cantly more af­ford­able hous­ing, ex­cel­lent tran­sit and lots of choices, and it’s a city where pros­per­ity is shared.

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